Chhattisgarh: High time for Cong, BJP to decipher the anti-incumbency factor

In Chhattisgarh-2013 the majority of the sitting MLAs belonging to both the parties — 49 out of 90 — lost. The incumbency factor was against the candidates, not the party. In 25 seats Congress won at the cost of the BJP and gave away 22 other to the BJP. The new house has 34 new faces from both the parties.

In his first comment to the media on the day results came out, the state Congress president, Charan Das Mahant talked about an "internal sabotage" which he said needs to be investigated. Other leaders from the organisation (read non-Jogi camp), mostly those who lost, repeated the charge later and flew off to Delhi to complain. The BJP did not crib about sabotage in public but lost no time in starting expulsions of party men on charges/suspicion of sabotage. Senior leaders in Dantewada were the firsts in the list.

 Chhattisgarh: High time for Cong, BJP to decipher the anti-incumbency factor

Representational image. PTI

The sabotage theory is not new to the parties. In a political metaphor, it is perhaps as common a malady as catching cold. Sabotage, however, cannot be the only reason for a party's defeat - or of that of more than half the total strength of the assembly. Money and muscle power, inducements in various forms before and during the elections and caste equations are some of the other important factors that go into the making of a result. Traditions were followed in 2013 too.

In case of the Congress candidates, a more credible explanation for their defeat certainly has a lot to do with their role as opposition members in the last decade — a responsibility in which they failed miserably.

"The Congress was noticed more for the lack of a firm stand in favour of the issues concerning people's interest and for its soft opposition to the government of the day" says Ruchir Garg, the Raipur based editor of the Hindi daily Naidunia.

Garg lists endless instances where the Congress failed miserably to live up to the role of an honest opposition and force the government to the dock or seek explanations from it. Like in case of the rape of tribal school girls in a government hostel in Jhaliamari in Bastar early this year, or the series of government sponsored eye-camps where a hundred of villagers went blind due to spurious and adulterated medicines in ill-equipped hospitals, or an instance last year where an under trial, accused of murders, succeeded in hijacking a train between Bhilai and Raipur and eloping. This should have raised an alarm on the absence or failure of the law and order machinery — an issue that came up in focus almost fleetingly after the killing of the Congress leaders at the hand of the Maoists.

No wonder the opposition was derisively referred to as the B-team of the ruling party. The leaders of the opposition Congress in 2008 and 2013 — both had enjoyed the rank of a cabinet minister with perquisites that go with it — were defeated at the end of their terms.

A new factor, most conspicuous and apparently valid in the plethora of hypotheses explaining the vote for change that seems to have affected the results decisively in 2013 in a state rich in natural resources is the effects of the drive to industrialise the state.

Just one district of the state — Champa-Janjgir — alone holds the distinction of being the district with the highest proposed thermal power capacity addition in the whole country. Its neighbour, the Raigarh district follows a close second. Between the two, at least 55,000 Megawatts (MW) of coal-based thermal power generation is in the pipeline. This massive spree of thermal power plant construction has resulted in a colossal displacement of the farmers and has shaken the foundations of the agro based economy of the area with ripples reaching far beyond it.

"One mega watt of capacity generation eats up 80 acres of land. This includes land required for mining, for creating reservoirs, for disposal of ash and for installation of the transmission lines and the project itself" says the activist Gautam Bandopadhyay of the Nadi Ghati Morcha.

The fight for survival of the villager is not limited to land. The Mahanadi system drains over 90% of the geography in the state.

"The construction of bumper to bumper barrages and anicuts in it has brought lakhs of water and river dependent communities in direct conflict with the state over control of this natural resource" says Shripad Dharmadhikary who coordinates the Manthan Adhyanan Kendra, a Badwani (MP) based centre that researches, analyses and monitors water and energy issues.

An old dam in Jangir district — Rigda Dam — that was benefiting irrigation was sold off to an industry. The Vidhan Sabha set up an inquiry committee consisting of members of both the parties. It collapsed into a farce. Almost all the members involved with it lost in 2013. Close to 5000-6000 families mostly landless — are estimated to be dependent on the riverbed cultivation in the stretch of 50 km in Janjgir Champa district alone.

What have the people's representatives been doing in all these years? No honest voice was raised in the assembly, no questions were asked, and no one came out to fight the people's cause. The perception of the MLAs being in the payroll of the industries grew by the day. The MLAs were clearly seen standing on the other side of the fence.

The results : all the 9 sitting MLAs of both the parties in these two districts — lost — and lost heavily — Raigarh and Dharamjaigarh by 20000, Lailunga by 15000, Akaltara by 22000 and so on. The Chandrapur MLA Yuddha Vir Singh who came out to attend public hearings and supported the villagers was an exception. He won.

If there is a message in it for the political parties, its high time they sit down to decipher it.

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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2013 16:52:25 IST